The Houston Food Bank gave out as much as 1 million pounds of food daily at the height of the pandemic as people suddenly found themselves unemployed and reluctantly accepting bags and boxes of free food for the first time in their lives. (Oct. 26)
PRISCILLA TORO: I got here about at 4:06. [LAUGHS]
JOHN MONE: At dawn, the cars curl around the block in this Houston neighborhood for nearly 3/4 of a mile.
HERMAN HENTON: I’ve been here since 7:08 this morning.
JOHN MONE: Herman Henton would prefer to be stuck in traffic, headed to a job.
HERMAN HENTON: Even in the neighborhoods where it’s pretty– I’ll say it’s a pretty decent on this side of town– we all need help.
JOHN MONE: Instead, the 41-year-old father and out-of-work construction worker is stuck in line waiting for food.
HERMAN HENTON: We tried to go and apply for food stamps, but they only qualified for us for $25 a month for five people.
JOHN MONE: He says paying the bills was never an issue until now.
HERMAN HENTON: We’ve depleted our savings.
JOHN MONE: Priscilla Toro is doing everything she can to get by.
PRISCILLA TORO: I don’t want to be in the street. I don’t want to be without light. I don’t want to be without food.
– At the West Houston Area Ministry Food Bank, the lines have been this long since early spring. These are just some of the stories of food insecurity because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
LISA IPARREA: We’ve seen a lot of people that have come through our line that say this is my first time here. There’s two vehicles in the line that trunk does not open– two vehicles.
JOHN MONE: Lisa Iparrea oversees this effort and estimates her mission will hand out groceries to about 1,000 people and pets on this particular Wednesday.
LISA IPARREA: People have lost their jobs. And they feel that if they can at least provide their families with one thing, it’s food.
JOHN MONE: Most of the food her group gives comes from the Houston Food Bank, the biggest in the country.
BRIAN GREENE: Almost immediately after the closures hit due to the pandemic, the lines went crazy long. We fairly quickly jumped up to about a million pounds per day of distribution. This compares to before with about 450,000 pounds.
JOHN MONE: From March through the end of September, the food bank has helped more than 126,000 area households a week. Food banks across the US doled out 1.3 billion pounds in the first quarter of 2020. That number jumped to 2 billion in the second quarter.
BRIAN GREENE: 40% of American households have less than $400 in savings in order to weather a storm. So when this crisis hit, the number of families who needed assistance just was immediate and very large.
JOHN MONE: For all that the food bags give, there’s one thing volunteers struggled to take away from the recipients–
HERMAN HENTON: The American dream is getting to be a further and further reach the more times go on.
JOHN MONE: –a feeling of shame. But if the pandemic has proven anything–
PRISCILLA TORO: It’s terrible that we all have to do this, you know? But we gotta get by.
JOHN MONE: –it’s how precarious economic stability is for a growing share of Americans. John Mone, “Associated Press,” Houston.
— to news.yahoo.com